Posts Tagged ‘cinema’
June 7, 2011 | by Richard Brody
One of the distinctions of Film Socialisme in Jean-Luc Godard’s oeuvre is its near-absence of cinemacentric references (the most prominent visual citation is from Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon, a film from the so-called experimental-film tradition, one that has played a slender part in Godard’s lifetime of cinematic reflections). This time around, Godard comes to the history of cinema from the outside, as in a sequence that features the voice-over remarks “My friends, I’ve found the black box: here’s why Hollywood is called the Mecca of cinema—the tomb of the Prophet—all gazes turned in the same direction—the movie theater.” Likening the movie screen to the Kaaba, Godard suggests that the secular Jews of Hollywood were also founders of a faith, of a devotion to the guided gaze, sacralized by the prophetic power of the image itself. Yet calling the discovery the “black box” suggests that Godard considers the definitive record of Hollywood’s influence also to be a disaster and its prophetic influence to be fraudulent. It also suggests the loss of faith that accounts for the absence of references to the classic cinema and, in particular, to the Hollywood movies that were the core of the tradition he inherited and perpetuated.
May 17, 2011 | by Jennie Yabroff
The British actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon met for dinner recently at an Italian restaurant in New York. As a plate of cheese and meat was passed around the table, Brydon, who was wearing a pink shirt, grabbed his midsection and sighed. “I’ve gained so much weight, and I haven’t been able to shift it,” he said. “It makes me so mad.” The men were in town because their new film, The Trip, was playing at the Tribeca Film Festival. In The Trip, Coogan and Brydon play slightly fictionalized versions of themselves and drive around England’s Lake District reviewing restaurants for The Observer. (The film originally aired as a six-part series on the BBC.) During filming, the men ate each meal three times, to allow for different camera setups. “Steve was smart,” Brydon said. “He just pushed the food around his plate. But I ate everything. Eating makes you a better actor because it distracts part of your brain. It’s like driving—if you’re eating or driving, you’re doing something real, so the acting seems more real, too.” (Much of The Trip takes place on the road, but Coogan did all the driving.)
The salad arrived. Brydon said that Michael Winterbottom, the film’s director, decided to make The Trip after noticing how many movies about food were playing at film festivals. Winterbottom chose the itinerary for the trip. (At dinner, a publicist suggested that the director needed a vacation after his previous movie, the ultra-violent The Killer Inside Me.) Brydon and Coogan worked with Winterbottom on Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, playing similarly exaggerated versions of their public personas: Coogan, the hedonistic, self-destructive comedian unable to shed his most famous role, the blissfully boorish Alan Partridge; Brydon, the contented family man whose fame as radio host and comedian is slowly eclipsing Coogan’s. In The Trip, Coogan spends evenings smoking pot, sleeping with comely hotel staff, and staring discontentedly in the mirror, while Brydon calls his wife for cozy long-distance tuck-ins (“speaking of boiled eggs, I’m not wearing my pajama bottoms”).
January 31, 2011 | by Angela Melamud
This Tuesday, the North American premiere of Elena Bychkova’s short film, Express-Course of Buddhism, will screen at Tribeca Cinemas in New York City. The film follows the train journey of a Russian teenager who retreats from the grim realities of Russian manhood into a pop fantasy of Buddhist enlightenment, gleaned largely from the Internet. Bychkova, who was born in Siberia and holds a degree from the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography, joins fellow Russian independent filmmakers Sergey Groznov, Anton Koskov, and Roman Karimov in a residency cohosted by CEC ArtsLink and the Sundance Film Festival.
It’s odd to think of Buddhism in a Russian context. Why was it a theme you wanted to explore?
I noticed various young people pretend to be Buddhist, when in reality they just had no other way to spend their time. They’d use it as a pretext to hang out, without even giving much thought to what Buddhism must actually be about. There are also quite a number of people, especially young ones, who, without even thinking of the context of the religion, without practicing Buddhism, would take a phrase from that context and use it to justify their actions, whether they were right, or, as in most cases, wrong. I thought it was a peculiar cultural occurrence.
Your films have won awards in both Russia and Europe. Is there a difference in the way Russians and Europeans appreciate your work? Do they take different things away from it?
Frankly, I don’t really see much difference between Russian and European perceptions of my films. I do see a difference in perception by different age groups. In Russia, Express-Course of Buddhism received all of its awards from small independent festivals organized by young people. Despite the fact that I received a grand jury award from the film festival held by the university I graduated from, the dean told me he would think twice before presenting the film to the Russian First Lady, who usually gets copies of all the winning films. Surprise seems to be well received by everyone regardless of age. I found it interesting that the audience at the Abu-Dhabi Film Festival in the Arab Emirates reacted to the film exactly like the audience in Russia.
January 24, 2011 | by Kate Waldman
The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe is Andrew O’Hagan’s fourth novel. It details the star’s final years in New York and L.A. as seen through the eyes of her frighteningly learned Maltese terrier, who was born on a Scottish tenant farm. Reporting from the intellectual, artistic, and political epicenters of America in the ’60s, Maf is uniquely positioned to chaperone us not only through Monroe’s private decline but also through the romance and turmoil of her era. On the phone, O’Hagan is soft-spoken and gallant, his Glasgow lilt similar (one imagines) to Maf’s.
You were born in Scotland and spent much of your life in London. What drew you to Marilyn Monroe and this particular scene in America?
I grew up on the West Coast of Scotland. We looked across the sea to Ireland, where my ancestors had come from, and beyond that, to the bigger-seeming civilization that was America. We always felt that we somehow had a strong relationship with the United States. We were very ready to accept American culture. There was, for instance, a great love of movies in my family. And the women all sang songs, not folk songs or Scottish ballads, but the songs of Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan. You might not immediately think of Glasgow as a world propagation center for glamour, but it is, and it was, and I feel the benefit.I realized a few years ago that I wanted to write about some of the less obvious ghosts of my childhood. I knew Marilyn Monroe had been given a dog by Frank Sinatra, and I started to look for evidence of this dog, feeling that, if I found him, he would prove a very reliable and possibly diverting witness to a culture that had influenced our lives. When I went to New York in 1999, I attended a sale of Marilyn Monroe’s personal belongings at Christie’s. I was writing a piece at the time for The London Review of Books and intended a second piece for Barbara Epstein at The New York Review of Books, so I went to the auction and waited and waited and then my waiting was rewarded when six little Polaroids of Maf the dog were auctioned for $222,000. As I was watching all the people frantically waving their paddles and trying to get a hold of this seemingly crucial piece of art from the twentieth century—that’s how they behaved—I felt I could hear the dog’s voice. I went back to my hotel that night thinking, If I can capture this dog, I’ll have accessed something special, something that really matters to me—and, hopefully, to my readers.
November 17, 2010 | by J. D. Mitchell
Christopher Sorrentino’s Death Wish is a monograph on the controversial and eponymous 1974 action movie. It stars Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey, an architect turned vigilante after his wife is murdered and his daughter is brutally assaulted in their New York City apartment. The book is the second installment in Soft Skull’s Deep Focus series, which invites contemporary writers to examine important popular films. I recently interviewed Sorrentino about his new book via e-mail.
In the 1970s, Hollywood produced a number of superficially political, urban action films. I’m thinking of Dirty Harry, which you discuss at some length in the book, and, of course, blaxploitation cinema. What made you decide to revisit Death Wish in particular?
Sean Howe approached me with the idea of writing about a movie that hadn’t been done to death, and we batted around a list of titles and genres ranging from eighties romantic comedies to zombie movies. The most prominent one we talked about was The French Connection. I really don’t like that movie, but it did get us talking about New York on film in the seventies. Among other reasons, Death Wish appealed to me because I’ve always been fascinated by Charles Bronson—since I was a kid. I didn’t have especially high expectations for the film itself, although Death Wish ended up surprising me a lot.
When did you first see the film?
Oh, probably when I was a teenager.
July 1, 2010 | by Richard Brody
This is the second installment of Brody's culture diary. Click here to read part 1.
10:19 A.M. WQXR: Schumann, Three Romances for Oboe and Piano, op. 94, played by Heinz Holliger and Alfred Brendel. One of the great chamber-music recordings1.
11:05 A.M. The Genius and the Goddess: “Mailer2 satirized the homespun Miller as ‘the complacent country squire, boring people with his accounts of clearing fields, gardening, the joys of plumbing (“Nothing like taking a bath in water that comes through pipes you threaded yourself”).’”
2:10 P.M. Village Voice—interviews with the directors Lena Dunham, Aaron Katz, and Matthew Porterfield (the director of two great movies, Hamilton and the forthcoming Putty Hill), about BAMcinemaFEST4.
5:30 P.M. I Am Love, which opens June 25. Operatic, for those who don’t like opera; Viscontian, for those who don’t watch Visconti; erotic, for those who like to watch.
8:10 P.M. The Genius and the Goddess: “In February 1959, when the seventy-four-year-old Danish author Isak Dinesen5—wasted, skeletal and ravaged by syphilis—expressed a desire to meet them, Carson McCullers invited the actress and playwright to lunch at her house in Nyack, New York.”
8:30 P.M. Mozart K. 497, Malcolm/Schiff on Mozart’s own piano from around 1780. Reminds me that my favorite recording of this masterwork of symphonic scope, a Nonesuch LP of it, performed by Robert Levin and Malcolm Bilson, is unavailable on CD. Haven’t heard it since I sold6 my LPs in 1995. Wonder how it would sound now.
9:30 P.M. Watched Jonathon Niese complete his one-hit shutout; saw bits and pieces of the last few innings. Pessimistically expected that, pitching into the ninth inning, he’d lose both his one-hitter and his shutout—I was wrong7.
10:00 P.M. Clifford Jordan and John Gilmore, Blowing In from Chicago, a Blue Note recording from 1957. The cut “Blue Lights,” composed8 by the alto saxophonist Gigi Gryce.
10:25 P.M. Erica Morini, Mozart, Violin Concertos 4 and 5. Morini: a Viennese immigrant (born 1904) with a mellifluous tone, who speaks Mozart as her mother tongue. These are privately-made live recordings, from concerts with a local orchestra, from 1965 and 1971, and a document of the vast cultural enrichment of New York that resulted from the desperate emigrations9 of the nineteen-thirties and forties.
10:57 P.M. I notice a strange Heisenbergian aspect to this diary—the nocturnal chunks of time usually devoted to reading are, this week, instead go into filling out the up-to-the-minute account of the day’s cultural doings. Am reminded of what one great rabbinic scholar said to me about another: I read ten books and write one; he reads one and writes ten. Nonetheless, I am learning something else about my own cultural life: that it’s weirdly regimented, by day and time.
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- I’ve got the sheet music and play them on alto recorder, changing registers as I go (the oboe’s range is much wider).
- How I miss the caustic, profound voice of Norman Mailer, whom I didn’t know personally (just interviewed once, by telephone).
- The short-sightedness of critics; a great fear, overlooking or dismissing a great film.
- Only in its second year, it’s the city’s best place to see new independent films; which says something about New Directors New Films, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the New York Film Festival.
- Happy to find a reference to one of my favorite colleagues and her biography of Dinesen: “Judith Thurman added an amusing detail to Marilyn’s story: ‘it got a little late, the company was arriving, and the pasta wasn’t ready, so she tried to finish it off with a hair dryer.’”
- Selling LPs—took up too much space; had the sense that I had utterly digested their content and their nutrition had gone into my system.
- What makes a pitcher almost unhittable? The motion on his pitches? Their speed? The mix of pitches that leaves the batter unable to guess what’s coming? The application to the ball of a substance that repels wood?
- Learning that this ultra-familiar, ultra-catchy blues riff has a composer is like learning that “Happy Birthday to You” has a composer.
- The Upper West Side that Saul Bellow preserved in Seize the Day and pickled in Mr. Sammler’s Planet.